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Alameda, Santa Clara County, CA November 7, 2006 Election
Smart Voter Political Philosophy for Ken A. Nishimura

Candidate for
Member of the State Assembly; District 20

This information is provided by the candidate

Introduction and General Philosophy

Thank you for taking the time to read about my philosophy and vision for our district. To begin, California is a great state. I have spent all but three years of my life in California, and I have reaped many benefits, including the privilege of earning all three of my degrees from a top-notch institution, UC Berkeley. It is my intention to contribute back to the state through my activities; the time has come to consider public service as an avenue to give back. California is in much better shape now than three years ago, but we must not become complacent. There are still many issues which, if not addressed, could jeopardize our well being. Issues such as healthcare, education, the environment, the economic well being of Californians as well as the fiscal management of the state are all areas which are in need of attention.

Allow me to share with you the general guidelines which guide my thinking -- keep in mind, these are guidelines + in policymaking, hard and fast rules usually lead to poor results. My philosophy centers on the belief that the role of government is to provide a framework which gives each person the opportunity to succeed; it is the responsibility of the individual to do his/her best within his/her abilities to succeed. It is my goal to promote pragmatic solutions to governance issues within California which reflect this philosophy, unencumbered by existing partisan positions.

I enjoy discussing the issues -- only through careful and meaningful discussion, considering a broad range of views can one develop a workable solution to each of the critical issues facing the State. I will briefly touch on a few key topics which are of interest to many Californians:


We must be vigilant to insure that the size of government does not outpace the growth in the personal incomes of our citizens. Unencumbered growth in government means less disposable income for our families. California's tax burden is already above average -- we must make sure that our resources are spent to enable the success of Californians, not foster a cycle of dependency. We must insure that our sources of revenue are well balanced and not overly sensitive to economic cycles. Finally, we must size our government to weather the downturns which are part of the economic cycle. We must not repeat our prior mistake of allowing our government to bloat during economic upturns. This inevitably leads to drastic measures when the economy cools -- this is highly disruptive, especially to our schools. Rather, we should retain surplus funds collected during economic upturns to invest in capital improvements (infrastructure) during economic downturns to help balance our economy.


Our healthcare system is badly in need of reform. The current linkage between employment and healthcare is nonsensical. Originally conceived in response to government wage regulation during wartime, healthcare as a fringe benefit has become entrenched through subsequent changes in the tax code. While healthcare is important, we must put things in perspective. We do not expect our employers to provide us with food, clothing or shelter, which are arguably basic necessities of life. Rather, we expect to be paid for our work, and each of us decides how to allocate our earnings to obtain these necessities. In principle, the same should be done for healthcare. Although the shift away from treating healthcare as a fringe benefit will take time and will require a change in the wage structure as well as the tax code, in the long run, it is the right thing to do.

The one caveat with healthcare is the need to spread the risk of care across a large population. In principle, insurance is supposed to do this -- each customer pays a premium based on the AVERAGE risk of a large number of people, while the insurance company absorbs the variation in actual costs for each customer. Unfortunately, this aspect of health insurance is broken. Purchasing health coverage as an individual is perilous at best -- only if you are in the best of health will you be able to purchase insurance at a reasonable rate. It is my belief that the biggest benefit to employer sponsored health care is not the fact that it is subsidized; is the fact that as an employee, you are guaranteed acceptance into a group plan. This is wrong.

I propose that the state form large assigned risk pools. Each Californian would be assigned randomly to one of a number of pools. Each healthcare insurance provider doing business in California would be assigned one or more pools. The insurance provider would be obligated to offer a standard policy at rates not exceeding that offered to the private sector for each member of their assigned pool. It would be up to each individual whether to accept this offer of insurance or obtain insurance through other existing means. In doing this, each Californian would be able to obtain health insurance at group rates -- most importantly, no Californian would be forced to buy insurance on his or her own, nor would any Californian feel tied to their ob just to remain eligible to purchase group insurance.

State subsidies are appropriate for assisting lower income Californians -- however, I do believe that nothing should be free -- there must be a positive Pareto cost for healthcare, appropriately adjusted for income. In short, "free" invites abuse, and we cannot tolerate, nor can we afford abuse of such a precious resource.

I am a strong proponent of competition and the innovation that arises from competition as our weapon against soaring healthcare costs. As such, I am against single-payer plans which first remove choice and secondly remove any incentive for the system to improve.


As an avid bicyclist and bicycle commuter, I value a clean environment. After decades of improvement, our air is much cleaner than before. However, we still have a few days each year where out air fails to meet pollution standards -- we must do better. Vehicles remain a dominant source of pollution. Older vehicles are especially troublesome. I support increasing the buyback program for older vehicles; I will also act to repeal the smog check exemption given to older vehicles. We must continue to clean up groundwater contamination and protect our existing water supplies. Fixing the Delta levees will be a priority.

I will support research and development credits to promote energy efficiency. While alternative energy sources are a fine area of research, it is better if we didn't spend that energy at all. As our households become filled with electronics and other modern day conveniences, our energy consumption will rise. Demographic shifts to the Central Valley will drastically increase the use of air conditioners and water for domestic irrigation. We must do everything possible to make our appliances and landscaping use as little of our critical resources as possible.


We must streamline and equalize funding opportunities across the state for public education. Currently, many sources of funding favor large districts who have the staff to administer a multitude of grants. We should not force smaller districts to choose between forgoing the grant or hiring additional administrators to manage these source of funding. A new law has addressed this issue with community colleges, we now need to turn our attention to our K-12 schools.

I believe that parental involvement in schools is important. I would like to expand our paid leave program to allow working parents to attend their child's classroom on an occasional basis. Knowing that the parent is involved will enhance the experience for both child and teacher.

We must continue to change our reward structure for our teachers. As professionals, their compensation should not be a strict function of seniority and education. Teachers who have the ability to teach difficult subjects such as advanced math and science deserve to be compensated accordingly. Pay for performance should be a fundamental cornerstone of our teacher compensation philosophy. Finally, we must revisit the concept of teacher tenure. Tenure exists at the University level to protect academic freedom to allow researchers to propose unorthodox theories without fear of recrimination. In general, the topics of interest in K-12 education are not controversial. There is no guarantee that a teacher who performed well twenty years ago is still an effective teacher. Your child does not experience the teacher of the past -- he or she experiences the teacher of today -- if a person is no longer an effective teacher, regardless of their past performance, they are not doing their job and our children suffer.

Transportation and Housing

We have a terrible transportation and housing issue in our area. It is difficult to succeed when one cannot get to and from work. We are now suffering from decades of poor land use planning. We must carefully examine our planning policies to determine how they impact the availability of quality affordable housing. For example, high developer fees are just passed on in the form of higher prices. Cities which eschew high-density housing must be held accountable for not providing needed housing to support their jobs.

We must continue to invest in our roads and bridges. Finally, we need to improve the convenience and reliability of public + the reality of our increasing population density means that increased use of mass transit and alternative transportation must be part of the future California. There are over 30 mass transit agencies in the Bay Area -- each their own political fiefdom. Moreover, many view each other as competitors. We cannot allow this. I will require that local transit agencies cooperate to enable convenient transportation alternatives between major residential areas and employment centers regardless of political boundaries. We must make it easier to use public transportation. Ample parking must be made available at mass transit terminals. Bicycling is a viable form of alternative transportation + we must enhance bicycle safety as well as enhance the use of the bike/transit option.


I look forward to the challenge of bringing fresh ideas unencumbered by partisan positions to Sacramento. I truly believe that the silent majority of Californians want a centrist government. I believe that Californians want to be given the chance to live the American dream, and I will do my best to provide the framework for everyone to succeed.

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: October 31, 2006 23:13
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